September 10, 2014

Now and For Never

by Lesley Livingston
280 pp.
Ages 12+
May, 2014

Lesley Livingston left off both Once Every Never (Puffin, 2011) and Every Never After (Razorbill, 2013) with someone left hundreds of years in the past and a pair of hearts tenuously separated.  Always a cliff-hanger but, rest assured, Lesley Livingston is charitable in her story-plotting.  Sweet endings, without the sugar, are her specialty.

When Clare Reid, BFF Allie McAllister and Milo McAllister, Allie’s cousin and Clare’s crush, shimmered back to present day Glastonbury Tor, the site of the archaeological dig, Marcus Donatus a.k.a. Mark O’Donnell–who’d been left as a teen in Ancient Rome–remains behind because of the manipulative Stuart Morholt.  Morholt had told Roman Governor Paulinus that Marcus knew the whereabouts of the Druid gold stolen from Boudicca and hidden by now-dead Posthumus.  Allie refuses to leave Marcus/Mark in the past and she and Clare make plans to return to 500 A.D., leaving Milo and Piper behind to ground them when they shimmer.

But Allie and Clare shimmer onto a Roman ship lead by Paulinus, chasing a second Roman ship which the Scathians stole with Boudicca’s gold and taking Marcus and Morholt with it.  Both ships have something the other wants: the Romans want the stolen gold back, and Mallora–Boudicca’s sister–wants Llassar, the Druid blacksmith who knows the black magic.

The saving grace is a digital camera memory card upon which Clare had recorded images that would be useful to them in the future (actually their present).  Milo gets a hacker friend to help them recover the images and he and Piper pursue the clues to get themselves in position to help Clare, Allie and, hopefully, Marcus/Mark shimmer back.

Add some weird ocean vector spirals, an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the reappearance of Boudicca’s daughter Comorra and her prince Connal, a kidnapping by Skraelings (skin-walkers), a power-hungry Roman, and a big oops moment, and Now and For Never takes the reader from one cardio crash to another.  Just when it looks like it’s all going to work out, Lesley Livingston throws in another twist that will prevent the future from turning out as it should.

Though readers will have their favourite characters, whether the geeky but romantic Milo, or the girl-inexperieced Marcus Donatus/Mark O’Donnell or the unlucky Clare, all the characters add to the story, showing growth and change, learning from their mistakes (some sooner than others), and revealing that sometimes they are misunderstood, rarely in a positive way.  But, I defy anyone to read the series and not enjoy Lesley Livingston’s fantastical storylines of Celtic and Roman history that intertwine the past as present, the present as the future, history, treachery, boy-girl crushes, and supernatural elements into a story bigger than the sum of all its parts.

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